Saturday, October 23, 2010

My Favorite Part of Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron"

Clanking, clownish, and huge, Harrison stood.
I am the Emperor!
Do you hear?
I am the Emperor! 
Everybody must do what I say at once!
He stamped his foot
and the studio shook.
Even as I stand here 
he bellowed
crippled, hobbled, sickened - 
I am a greater ruler
than any man who ever lived! 
Now watch me become what I can become! 

Harrison tore the straps of his handicap harness
like wet tissue paper,
tore straps guaranteed to support five thousand pounds.
His scrap-iron handicaps
crashed to the floor.
Harrison thrust his thumbs
under the bar of the padlock that secured
his head harness.
The bar snapped like celery.
Harrison smashed his headphones and spectacles
against the wall.
He flung away his rubber-ball nose,
revealed a man that would have awed
Thor, the god of thunder.

I shall now select my Empress! 
he said, looking down on the cowering people.
Let the first woman who dares rise to her feet 
claim her mate and her throne! 

A moment passed,
and then a ballerina arose,
swaying like a willow.
Harrison plucked the mental handicap from her ear,
snapped off her physical handicaps with
marvelous delicacy.

Last of all he removed her mask.
She was blindingly beautiful.
said Harrison, taking her hand,
shall we show the people 
the meaning of the word dance? Music! 
he commanded.
The musicians scrambled back into their chairs,
and Harrison stripped them of their handicaps, too.
Play your best,
he told them,
and I'll make you barons and dukes and earls. 

The music began.
It was normal at first-
cheap, silly, false.
But Harrison snatched two musicians from their chairs,
waved them like batons
as he sang the music as he wanted it played.
He slammed them back into their chairs.
The music began again and was much improved.
Harrison and his Empress
merely listened to the music for a while-
listened gravely, as though synchronizing their heartbeats with it.
They shifted their weights to their toes.

Harrison placed his big hands
on the girls tiny waist,
letting her sense the
that would soon be hers.

And then,
in an explosion of joy and grace,
into the air they sprang!

Not only were the laws of the land
but the law of gravity
and the laws of motion
as well.

They reeled,
and spun.

They leaped like deer on the moon.

The studio ceiling was thirty feet high,
but each leap brought the dancers nearer to it.
It became their obvious intention
to kiss the ceiling.

They kissed it.

And then, neutraling gravity with
love and pure will,
they remained suspended in air inches below the ceiling,
and they kissed each other
for a

It was then that Diana Moon Glampers,
the Handicapper General,
came into the studio
with a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun.

She fired twice,
and the Emperor and the Empress
were dead before they hit the floor.

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